Oh my god…it’s ending!

Rhino finished the last of her graduation requirements yesterday, which was awesome because it’s been over 100 degrees here, and it gave us another excuse to go out for dinner.

For all practical purposes, Rhino is now vegan.  One of her doctors thought that cutting dairy from her diet for at least three months might alleviate her cyclic vomiting syndrome, and in testament to how much Rhino hates vomiting, she has given up dairy. This includes pizza and ice cream.  Rhino finds sorbet an acceptable substitute for ice cream, but she does not find pizza without cheese to be an acceptable substitute for pizza with cheese.  She’s perceptive that way.  

In any case, we went out for Indian food.  But I digress.

A few days ago, we went down to Washington, DC and moved furniture into Rhino’s new house.  She does not know what room she will be living in yet, so the furniture is sitting unceremoniously in the “second living room,” which will actually be used as a bedroom.  And actually, probably her bedroom since she gets last pick on rooms, as she was the last person to join the house.  Rhino’s furniture consists of the following:

  • a night table we bought for her at a craft fair when she was 4.  It is painted purple and green.
  • her father’s dresser from his childhood bedroom.  Mr. A’s parents were never big on material objects, and the dresser’s durability is one step above cardboard.  The drawers fell apart when we moved it, but Mr. A and studmuffin Twister put it back together with Liquid Nails glue and a hammer that Rhino won when she was on the zoo’s exhibits projects team.
  • a fold-up couch/bed from Ikea.  This is a metal frame with a foam mattress thing with a seam down the middle so it will fold in half when the frame is upright.  This is intended to serve as Rhino’s bed.  She complained bitterly because at one point, a cat barfed on it.  Plus, it was the cheapest model Ikea had at the time, so it’s probably not very comfortable.  We told her that she is welcome to procure a bed from freecycle or trashpicking, and she decided the cat-barfed-on Ikea unit was preferable to any labor on her her part.
  • a low square table.  This was also from Mr’s A’s childhood room.  I have no idea what it’s original intent was, but I’m sure Rhino’s intent will be to pile huge stacks of mixed up clean and dirty clothes on it.
  • a side table that Mr. A and I trashpicked in Boston the year we got married.

We also brought down a large cardboard box full of tampons and vegan nut bars.  I hope none of this burned up in the great flurry of illegal fireworks that the neighbors were setting off in the street.

Then Rhino came home, finished her last Financial Skills assignment, wrote her last AP English essay, and took her last AP English exam.  Despite completing exactly one course all school year (AP European History), she manged to complete three classes in less than 2 months so that she could graduate and do City Year.  

She still needs to finish the second semester of AP Biology, which I am only going to mention once right now before going into the other room and screaming into a pillow.  She also needs to finish Spanish III, for which I think she still has to complete nearly the entire years’ worth, and the semester or precalculus that she began with my dad, though she has not yet completed unit one.  She also plans to take the second semester of AP English.  While I am sure colleges will appreciate these additions, she does not need them to graduate.  This is a very, very good thing, as Rhino will now be working a 50+ hour week, and since she was apparently only able to do one (two-semester) class during the school year, somehow I think that completing an additional 5  semesters of coursework is going to be—shall we say elusive?  Unobtainable?  Preposterous?  In any case, I doubt it will happen.

Still, she won’t be living here any more, and so there will be little whimpering on the puppy-chewed love seat in the living room, and we will no longer hear the stomp of her dainty Rhino feet upon the stair.  I have hated almost every moment of homeschooling, and I have to say it is a relief to me that we got her through the essential part of it and it won’t be part of my daily life any more.

But damn, am I going to miss her.

Countdown to Launch

I know I haven’t posted in forever, and actually, the homeschooling endeavor is beginning to come to a close.  Ultimately, I suppose this blog, if I continue it, will have to morph into something else.  But before the morph, there are some things from the last several months I would like to consider.

Something transformative happened to Rhino this spring.  It was a gradual transformation—there was no single moment in which I said “Aha!  Rhino has become amazing beyond my wildest dreams!”  But that’s how the winter/spring have culminated. 

Rhino is the outreach coordinator for the District Youth Service Committee for our religious denomination.  She recruited many new youth to the quarterly conferences, and churches that had never participated before sent their youth.  She served as a dean at one of the conferences.  She went to monthly meeting all over the region.  The adult person in charge of youth for the district asked her to revise the standards for the YES (Youth Empowerment and Supportive Congregations) Award.  She arranged and ran a Cluster event at our church that involved baking a huge number of pies (and raising $250 for a local charity).

Rhino served on the religious education committee at our church.  She co-chaired the Youth Adult Committee (YAC—it’s a community service committee).  She ran the youth group (which won a YES award under her leadership).  She attended the Leadership Committee (because she was co-chair of YAC).

Rhino wrote a proposal to amend our church’s bylaws to allow youth to become full members with voting rights after they complete the Coming of Age program, a  program that is supposed to lead youth to religious adulthood (kind of a low-key bar mitzvah type thing).  She lobbied for congregational support, and ultimately the board passed her proposal unanimously.

Rhino is going to accept the Governor’s Service Award on behalf of the youth volunteer program at the zoo.  The volunteer coordinator told her she had been chosen because she did Junior Zoo Crew, Junior Zookeeper, Junior Interpreter, and Animal Handling and had worked at the zoo for 4 years.   

Rhino is a penguin keeper at the zoo.  She knows the name and identification number of every penguin.  She assists in feeds and in teaching baby penguins to swim (did you know baby penguins hate water?).  She watched over four hatchlings born into the Endangered Species Preservation Program.  And she endured a lot of penguin bites.

Rhino has seen more than 100 children pass through the preschool for homeless children.  Our church decided to make the preschool one of its places to contribute special offerings.

Rhino applied to two Americorps Programs.  She first heard from the one that accepts fewer than 20% of applicants, most of whom are college graduates.  So next year, Rhino will be a City Year corps member in a city about an hour away.  She’s going to live on her own (with some roommates from the program).

Also, Rhino did school.  She is currently preparing for two AP exams, and because City Year requires that she have a diploma, she is planning to finish the requirements to graduate from the University of Nebraska’s independent study highschool by mid-July.  It’s not perfect.  She didn’t finish her Spanish class or her math class.  She’ll only finish the first semester of AP English.  

Somehow, I think she still came out okay.

Deadlines—There’s a Reason the Word “Dead” is in There

Rhino has learned a lot of time management skills in the last year and a half, but she has also learned how hard it is for her to manage her time.  Part of the problem is that without strict deadlines, her perfectionism demands that she’s never ready to finish anything.  Not anything.  Ever.  

Last month she was scheduled to take an AP Bio exam (note that she is still taking the first semester of AP Bio, which she began in August of 2010).  However, she hadn’t finished studying all of the units that were going to be covered.  However again, she had already postponed this exam.  So we told her to go take it anyway.  Rhino wailed and flopped around the kitchen, and there was gnashing of teeth and rending of garments.  Okay, well maybe not that, but it was bad.  So then she went and took the test, and actually she did almost as well on it as she had on all of the other tests she had taken when she had finished studying all of the material. 

One might hope that Rhino would learn from this experience, but right now she is scheduled to take an AP European History exam.  The Missouri school screwed up, and the exam did not arrive on time for her to take it as scheduled.  Now, this should have given Rhino a week and a half in which to do other things before being able to schedule a date for the exam with her proctor (the proctor should be eligible for sainthood, by the way).  So what did she do?  She spent the time continuing to study for the AP Euro exam.

Rhino is supposedly taking 5 classes right now—AP Bio, AP Euro, AP English, Spanish III, and Precalculus.  She MUST take the AP Bio exam this spring because the curriculum for the course will change after this year.  Thus, she will have to do the second semester of AP Bio in an actual semester.  AP Euro runs on a real schedule, so she’ll have to finish that too.  But the rest of the classes don’t have deadlines.  And that is why we are going to be dead.

Math for Homeschoolers

Last night, Rhino took the big plunge and enrolled in Precalculus, which is as close to calculus as she’ll probably ever get.  But that math is actually not the subject of this post.  We are going to focus on something more user-friendly: Arithmetic.

Rhino has 7 days a week with 24 hours in each of them, just like everyone else.  

7 x 24 = 168 = number of hours in Rhino’s week.

Rhino sleeps about 9 hours a night.  At least I think she does—it’s hard to tell when she goes to bed.  But we are making her get up in the morning, so we’ll call it 9.

9 x 7 = 63 = number of hours sleeping per week.
168 - 63 = 105 = number of waking hours in Rhino’s week.

Rhino has taken on a babysitting job.  The actual babysitting runs from 2:45 to 4:30, but she has to walk the better part of 2 miles to pick up the kids (the family drives her home).   Thus, she leaves between 2 and 2:15.  And of course, she has to get ready to go.  She is doing this 3 afternoons a week.

Rhino is volunteering at the zoo once per week.  She alternates between Junior Zookeeper (7.5 hour shift) and Junior Interpreter (4 hour shift).  She generally has to take the bus, which adds about an hour on each side.  

Rhino also volunteers at a preschool for homeless children one day per week.  She is driven there and takes a bus home.  She spends 3 hours at the preschool, and has a combined transit time of about an hour.

2.5 x 3 = 7.5 = hours spent babysitting per week
[(7.5 + 4) / 2] + 2 = 7.75, rounded to 8 = average hours at zoo per week
3 + 1 = 4 = time commitment for volunteering with homeless preschool

 7.5 + 8 + 4 = 19.5 = scheduled volunteer and paid work per week

Rhino is very involved with out church youth group and attends church every Sunday.  We leave the house at 10:45 and return at 1:15.  It’s actually kind of a joke that we leave at 10:45, but we intend to.  In any case, the only work anyone is doing after 10:45 is hunting for lost shoes. Once a month, Rhino has a meeting of the Youth Adult Committee, which she chairs.  Once a month, she attends a meeting of the Religious Education Committee, of which she is a member.  Once a month, she attends a Distict Youth Service Committee meeting, which lasts from Saturday evening to Sunday morning, but usually involves extensive transit time, as the meetings are often held in other states.  Once every other month, Rhino attend a Youth Con, which lasts from Friday evening to Sunday morning.

2.5 + [(1.5 + 3 + 20) / 4] + (40 / 8) = 13.625, rounded to 13.5 = hours of church affiliated activities per week

105 - (19.5 + 13.5) = 72 = average number of non-scheduled hours in Rhino’s week

Rhino has annoying life details to attend to such as showering, eating, brushing her teeth, tending the ferret, cooking dinner once per week, and cleaning the bathroom.  This takes from 1-2 hours per day.

Rhino likes to have some limited time to check her Facebook.  She also likes to email, text and post on her blog. This takes about an hour per day.

Rhino likes to see her friends once in awhile.  This varies from 0 to 24 hours a day.

Rhino likes to watch endless reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Gilmore Girls,  She also likes to watch chick flicks, which has become infinitely easier with now that our house has Roku and Netflix.  This takes anywhere from 0 to 10 hours per day.

Rhino is taking AP Biology, Multicultural Literature (which will be replaced by AP English), AP European History, Spanish III and Precalculus.

I think we need an alternate number system.  Or a time warp.

Wrapping Up, Moving On, and a Small Hissy Fit

Rhino has finished AP Environmental Science, is putting the finishing touches on her War paper (Mr. A did the first round of edits with her), and is almost finished with Men and Women in Society (she has to write one short paper, but it doesn’t involve much in the way of outside sources, which means her slow reading does not cause as many delays).  She still has substantial work to do for Multicultural Lit and AP Bio.  She volunteered on her own to pay the extension fee for going over the one year limit.  Which is good, because we would have made her pay it any way, but now she gets credit for taking responsibility for herself.

So with all that left to do, what did we spend the evening doing?  Enrolling her in more classes!

Well, actually, first Mr. A suggested that she give up working at the preschool for homeless children so that she would have more time to do theater.  And I was not particularly receptive to this suggestion.  In fact, I might have pointed out that as he has contributed almost nothing to the homeschooling endeavor, he has no right to make pronouncements about what Rhino should and shouldn’t do.  And that he has no idea how this volunteer work fits into the grand plan.  Or what colleges are looking for in Rhino, or the fact that her cover reason for homeschooling is that she needed more time to volunteer, or that the homeless preschool gig is Rhino’s absolute favorite thing that she does.  And I might not have said any of this particularly nicely, because when one is a full-time working mother of three who is starting a new job, commutes 72 miles each way to work, takes care of her mother with Alzheimer’s, and just took the 5 foster kittens to the vet to get their diarrhea treated, one can get a little testy about having been put involuntarily in charge of the homeschooling of a brilliant but fragile teenager.  

In the coming year(s), Rhino must take 3 semesters of English, one of economics, and one of “career planning” in order to graduate.  In order to be a well-rounded and college-ready person, she also needs to take precal and Spanish.  

So Rhino is now enrolled in AP European History.  Because as the UU Spirit of Life knows, we don’t have enough to do around here.

War on the Couch

I know you are very, very tired of the war and literature homeschool class, but you are not half as tired of it as I am, because you only confront it on this blog, while I confront it every day in my living room.

Over a year ago, Rhino began a homeschool English class on war.  I thought it was brilliant on a number of levels.  First, her classmates at the IB High School were reading Just and Unjust Wars for their AP Comparative Government class.  There is no online AP Comparative Government; there is only online AP US Government, because the world of online homeschooling is hoping that we can have a repeat of the debt crisis in perpetuity.  But I digress.

Back to brilliance: Rhino could read Just and Unjust Wars with her friends, then use its theories to interpret some works of literature.  We even had a copy of the book, which I distinctly remember not reading for Moral Problems in Religious Perspective, a course I took at Oberlin College.  As a former English teacher, I happened to be familiar with some good works that addressed the topic of war in a way that would appeal to a 16-year old (did you know that Rhino is 17 and a half now?) and still have intellectual merit.  So Rhino began reading In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason and all was well.

Rhino did not particularly like Just and Unjust Wars, and neither did any of her friends.  In fact, most of her friends didn’t read it, and I still give Rhino credit for actually trying to read it, even if none of it stuck.  In any case, she read several other texts that she did like, including “The Things They Carried,” “Defender of the Faith,” and Cold Mountain.  I had planned on having the course be done by the end of the summer (that is summer of 2010), but reading Cold Mountain was a long process.  Rhino finally finished it sometime in October.  

I then designed an excellent paper for her to write, outlining Walzer’s just war theory and discussing its lacks in application to the characters in the literature.  Rhino spent a long time not understanding this paper, mostly because she didn’t finish reading the instructions.

Then there was the bonobo paper, the Facebook showdown, and a semester of catch-up on courses that actually had to be completed by a certain time.  The war paper occasionally came up in conversation, which was good because at least the seeds of Rhino’s labor did not die completely.  They just remained very, very dormant.

So then there were AP tests, and Costa Rica and SUUSI and vomit.  

Now that Rhino is grounded, there is a war paper.  It is currently almost 7 pages long (out of a required 10).  Rhino has been working on it for several days now, ever since she finished the AP Environmental Science class (for which she took the AP test 3 months ago and got a 4).  Why is it taking so many days, you might ask?

Rhino is sitting on the beige couch with the puppy-chewed holes in the cushion covers and is fighting her own war against perfection.  She seems to have acquired a friend’s copy of Just and Unjust Wars (it has a different cover than my printing).  She has ripped the cover off of my copy of In Country and completely lost The Things They Carried (though she found the title story online).  Cold Mountain appears relatively intact, perhaps because we own multiple copies. [Update: Cold Mountain is missing its BACK cover]

Rhino worries that the paper might be “wrong,” that she doesn’t really understand the books, that her paper will not be the most intellectually rigorous piece of scholarship ever produced by a high school student.  She fights against these worries in order to actually write the damn paper.  This is an ongoing war for Rhino, one that began in kindergarten when she absolutely refused to use “invented spelling.”  Her refrain when asked “how do you think it’s spelled?” was “how do you spell it?”  

This was followed up by the pronouncement, “I know mistakes are part of learning, but I don’t like to make them.”

If we can win over that one for this paper, I won’t say it will all have been worth it, but at least this battle will be over.  And I can take a very long nap.

One Down

Oh my sweet UU Spirit of Life!  She finished a class!

Rhino is now DONE with AP Environmental Science.  And with a full 13 days before the course expired!  Now that’s forethought.  She has a full 35 days before her AP Bio class expires and MONTHS before Multicultrual Lit expires.  

I suppose her classes with me don’t have to expire, but I’m pretty expired myself.

Tags: Rhino AP

My Crystal Ball

So Rhino is off in Costa Rica, and I am here planning her future.  Cue music:


By my calculations, Rhino could graduate from the University of Nebraska ISHS without doing much more coursework.  She definitely needs one more year of English.  They require that she take economics and career planning.  And there is the question of whether the multicultural literature course can count for both the multicultural requirement and an English credit.  But that’s it. Five semesters of course work at most.

Fortunately for her intellect, but perhaps unfortunately for her graduation timing, Rhino has grander plans.  Such as attending college.  This will require math (precalculus) and Spanish III.  As she is currently taking Spanish I (yes, that would be a ONE) for the THIRD TIME, I’m not sure what the Spanish III prospects are, but not having three years of a language is apparently a deal breaker for college.  And Rhino still plans to attend college, so there we are.

Then Rhino has also heard that World History is a crucial course, and she actually likes history (as opposed to math), and so she has been eager to take AP World History.  But darn it all, the only public online study high school that is open to all homeschoolers and also offered AP World History is shutting down as of this month.  So poop on the University of Oklahoma.  Rhino could take regular World History from any number of places, or she could take AP European History, or she could take AP European History and the semester of regular World History that covers non-Western civilizations.  But the original plan on this one is now kaput.

Then there is AP Bio.  As you might recall, as I may have mentioned it once or twice, Rhino is still not finished with the FIRST semester of AP Bio.  However, her window for finishing is drawing to a close, and so when she comes back from Costa Rica, she will be a Rhino with a mission.  Unfortunately, the completed mission is an illusion, as only half the mission will be completed: she still has to take the SECOND semester of AP Bio.  So much for missions. Perhaps they are overrated.

So now we have AP English, Spanish III, PreCal, AP Bio, some sort of World History with AP European perhaps thrown in, Economics, Career Planning, and possibly an additional semester of English.  This is 12, yes TWELVE, semesters of course work.  And as Rhino is still not finished with 5 of the 7 semesters of coursework for last year, I have some doubts that she will enter and leave her senior year during the same academic year.  


AP Scheduling with Mr. A

Mr. A seems to regard much of the homeschooling at a bemused distance, which amuses me not one whit.  So in order to balance things at least a wee smidge toward joint responsibility, when the issue of scheduling Rhino’s AP exams came up, I suggested that Mr. A take that on.  The asking was perfunctory—it was rhetorical asking—and Mr. A wisely understood this and we are still happily married.

Rhino had finished her AP government course last December right on schedule, so we knew that she would be taking that AP.  She is, even as of this writing, not done with the FIRST semester of AP Biology, so it was clear even back in February that she would not be taking that AP.  While she had done even less work in Environmental Science than in Bio, the EnSci class is designed to be done in a semester, so it seemed more practical that she should finish that up.  

Then we found out that Mr. A and Rhino’s plans to go to a major music festival conflicted with the EnSci AP.  No problem, I thought.  She’s homeschooled anyway—why couldn’t she take the exam in the same city as the music festival?  This was greeted as a brilliant idea, and I left the execution of the idea to Rhino and Mr. A and went about the business of raising children, caring for my mother, working full time, and looking for a new job.

Rhino made some phone calls and found out that a person should take all of her AP exams in the same place and with the same AP Coordinator.  This threw a monkey wrench into the plan because it would not be possible to take the AP Government exam in the city with the music festival.

So then the issue became that Rhino did not want to take the make up AP EnSci exam because last year her AP US History teacher convinced her that the make up exams were designed to punish those who were not prepared on time in order to discourage everyone from postponing the test to a later date (thus having two more weeks to study for it).  Rhino was back to worrying about liver evisceration.  I stayed out of the fray, as going to the music festival was not even my idea.

Mr. A didn’t think much about his responsibilities for awhile.  Then he called the AP people and found that Rhino’s test accommodations would still be in place and we did not have to re-apply for them.  That was good.

Then he found a school in the suburbs that said they’d be happy to let Rhino take her AP exams with their students.  So he thought we were good to go.  Only he hadn’t told the school that Rhino gets special testing accommodations.  Nor had he told them that she needed to take the make-up version of the Environmental Science exam.  He didn’t want to spring too much on them at once.  Then he did spring it on them, and they promptly rescinded their offer, claiming that they didn’t have a person or space for special proctoring, especially on a make up test date.  

It was getting close to the exam dates, and Mr A started getting a little sweaty.  He emailed me about the tribulations and his great anxiety that this was NOT going to work out.  I considered replying with something very, very snotty.  Something to the effect that this was pretty much the ONLY thing he was contributing to the management of homeschooling and he had managed not to do it, and to get me involved to boot.  I even wrote a reply in such a vein, which included some more of those words Rhino tries to teach the homeless preschoolers not to say.  But instead I thought about this piece on animal training (see http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/25/fashion/25love.html) and  sent a note saying, “That’s too bad.  What are you going to do?”  

I figured that now if Rhino didn’t get into college, we could all blame it on Mr. A, which would be great for Rhino’s self esteem.

Then, Mr. A decided to contact Rhino’s old IB High School (which Twister will be attending next fall).  The lovely people there at first pointed out that they don’t even offer AP US Government.  Also, they had already ordered all of their AP tests, which did not include copies for Rhino, especially as she wanted to take the make-up AP EnSci exam.

Then Mr. A went and talked to the folks at the school, and the new principal there said none of this was a problem.  They would order Rhino’s exams.  They would find a special proctor to monitor her accommodations.  She could take EnSci on the make up day.  And they would even pay for that test because they offer the class and the city system pays for the tests (we would have to pay for the AP Government test, though I was surprised to find that the tests seem to cost less than they did when I took them in 1987).  I have some thought that they were so accommodating because Twister is the valedictorian at his school and they are very excited that he is coming.  But maybe they are just nice.

So Mr. A got the AP test issue all straightened out, and all we had to do was make sure Rhino was actually ready to take them, which if you remember our ongoing saga, was a very big issue in its own right.

Tags: Mr. A Rhino AP

Time Management

Time management is a contradiction in terms, if you think about it.  Time just keeps doing whatever it does.  You can manage it all you want, and it will still keep going one second per second.  And a lot of those seconds can be spent on Facebook.  A lot.

In December, Rhino was absolutely required to be finished with her AP US Government class (University of Missouri), which, to her credit, she was.  She was supposed to be finished with the first semester of AP Biology (U of North Dakota) and with her AP Environmental Science class (University of Nebraska), although not finishing the Environmental Science class would be no big deal, as the AP exam for it wasn’t until May.  She was also supposed to be finished with the Research Methods class she was taking with me at my university.  And with the war and literature homeschool class.  Remember that one?  I made a joke that she wouldn’t finish the war class until November.  Which was really a very funny joke because it is now May and Rhino still isn’t finished.

So let’s consider the one of these classes that actually did get finished: the methods class.  Rhino spent about three weeks in her room “writing” a paper that came out slightly better than if it had been randomly typed by chimps.  Maybe it was typed by bonobos.  In any case, to put it mildly, it sucked.  If Rhino were stupid, incompetent, and incapable, perhaps turning in a crappy paper for an intermediate college level class at a top-notch university would be unsurprising.  However, since Rhino had already proved herself to be both smarter and a better writer that the majority of students in the class, it was surprising.  Especially as she had spent three weeks on it.

So what was she doing in her room during those weeks (when, by the way, we had tried to get her to work downstairs.  Or I had.  I’m not sure what Mr. A’s involvement was).  Well, Facebooking.  Lots of it.  Apparently about 50 hours a week’s worth, although she might have watched reruns of Gilmore Girls in there somewhere too.  You know, to take a break.

The sad thing is that her topic was not only really interesting, it was something that really interested her.  She took field notes on play styles of the homeless children at the preschool where she volunteers.  She noticed themes of police interaction, illness, and death in the children’s play.  Baby dolls got sick and died, no matter how many times you called the doctor.  The Lincoln Log house had no door, but it needed windows “so they can bust out.”  And there was a constant litany of “I’m going to call the police on you,” often complete with words I’m not sure I learned until I was in junior high.  Said with effortless fluidity by three-year-olds.

So at our house, there was a lot of screaming.  Mostly by me.  Sometimes accompanied by some of the same words that the three-year-olds were using.  Rhino accompanied the screaming with lots of meaningless apologies and genuine sobbing.  I would not call this harmony.  At least it was winter time and the windows were closed.

Rhino did rewrite the crappy paper and brought it up to B-level, but that still left three other classes to finish in about a week.  

It didn’t happen.  And so the saga will be continued.